Black smoke billowed over the Deer Park residential and commercial neighbourhood today as firefighters tried to contain a blaze that engulfed the historic Badminton and Racquet Club at 25 St. Clair Ave. West.
More than 120 firefighters and 20 trucks have been called to the fire since the first alarm at 9:30 a.m. By noon hour, as initial efforts to extinguish the flames failed, the fire department was calling it a six-alarm fire, the department’s most serious designation. The collapse of the building’s roof was imminent, firefighters said.
No injuries of either building inhabitants or firefighters were reported in the early going.
The area including the Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue intersection was blocked off.
Residents and office workers in nearby buildings were evacuated under direction of Toronto police.
As far as three blocks away and as late as 4 p.m., pedestrians with masks and scarfs across their faces were seen fleeing the scene through smoke that seeped through local streets.
Interim Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told a news conference at 11:30 a.m. that firefighters were having trouble controlling the fire due to high winds whipping up the flames.
Pegg said he did not know the cause of the fire, which apparently started on the second floor of the racquet club.
The club is offset from St. Clair Avenue west, set in behind retail buildings, restaurants and condominiums on both St. Clair and Yonge Street.
With the club collapsing, firefighters were removed from the burning building and took up positions in the adjacent buildings. They poured water from cranes, rooftops and balconies of the evacuated buildings onto the remains of the racquet club. A record seven elevated devices were used.
Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow told media at the scene it was “devastating to see a fire right in the heart of midtown Toronto, to see a dark plume of smoke right at Yonge and St. Clair.”
He praised the work of the fire department in protecting the community from the spread of the fire.
Matlow warned spectators to keep their distance from the fire: “If you smell smoke, you’re too close to the scene.”